Three Strikes by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg
by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, and Charles Salzberg
on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2018
I Take Care of Myself in Dreamland
by Ross Klavan
Bartok is horribly scarred. Wounded in the Army, he roams through 1970’s New York, a city of perpetual night, punctuated by crime and populated by streetwalkers, hooker bars, strip clubs, easy drugs and a feeling of doom. There’s one thing on his mind: an experience he had when his Army truck exploded, an experience he calls Red River. More than bliss, more than spiritual. But nothing goes right. Bartok loses his girl, his money, any possibility of support and decides that he’s finished, he’s going to end it but before he does, he’s going out on the town for one last attempt to recapture the incredible experience of Red River. And when he does, he runs into others who see him as an easy mark for dirtier plans…plans that involve murder before suicide.
Bartok’s story is told by a driver for the mob, a guy who’s heard it all and usually keeps his mouth shut because when he begins a trip, it’s almost always one-way.
by Tim O’Mara
Aggie’s back. After barely escaping with his life in “Smoked,” Aggie disproves the old adage of “Once burned…” This time around he’s heading from the Midwest to New York City with a sweet shipment of stolen maple syrup. He also has picked up an unwanted-and potentially dangerous-passenger; the fifteen-year-old daughter of his latest boss has hopped on for a free ride to the Big Apple and her on-line boyfriend. When they arrive in NYC, Aggie’s worst fears are realized when the “boyfriend” turns out to be a group of human traffickers. Aggie knew that running one of the world’s most valuable liquids across state lines was skirting the line between safety and danger, but he never knew it could get this sticky.
The Maybrick Affair
by Charles Salzberg
It’s a couple weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor and a young reporter, Jake Harper, who works for a small Connecticut newspaper, is assigned a routine human interest story. A reclusive, elderly woman, has quietly passed away in her small cottage upstate. Anxious for bigger stories, Jake begins his assignment by trying to find out who this woman was and what kind of life she led. As Jake investigates the old woman’s death he finds that years earlier she was tried and convicted of murdering her husband in a well-publicized, lurid trial in London, England. And, after digging further, he, unearths evidence that she might have had a connection to an even more famous British serial killer and that the ramifications of this story might affect America’s entry into the War.
Book Formats: ePub, mobi Print (US & Canada) Hosting Options: Review, Interview, Guest Post, Showcase Giveaway: There will be a PICT Giveaway and Individual Host Giveaways More: According to the authors Three Strikes does not include: Excessive Strong Language, Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Scenes, Rape, or other trigger situations. PICT staff have not read this book, however and cannot give additional information.
Read an excerpt from I Take Care of Myself in Dreamland
It was a great time for whores.
New York City, 1970, ’71 maybe, ’72, but, as Bartok was saying, “If nothing else, it’s an ace of a time to be a hooker.” In fact, he says, maybe it’s a lousy time to be anything else. This is what Bartok is telling us he told the whore he’s with, standing in the fleabag hotel on Lex across from Grand Central. Something like, “Must be a great time to be turning tricks.”
Now, a certain kind of guy won’t tell you this but—it doesn’t bother me a damn bit that I’m stupid. Plenty of people would mind—I don’t. They’d be embarrassed—I’m not. When I was a kid they use to say to me, “You don’t have the brains you were born with.” And you know what? They were right. Or maybe I did have those brains, maybe I was born this way. Whatever it is, “stupid” is the reason I’m still around.
The way I see it, I’m just smart enough to keep my mouth shut and at this age—I’m an old man now—you get to see that being smart enough to zip the yap is all the smarts you need. If you take the trip and make your way around, what you’ll end up with anyway is lots of stories you can tell in a bar when nobody wants to listen. So, it’s okay that I’m stupid. Back then, I kept myself dumb except to sometimes say something stupid to make them all laugh. That’s all.
That’s why they let me drive. The smart guys? They didn’t last so long. Smart guys or guys trying to be smart. They’re always the ones who get it first.
“You’re an interesting guy,” they said to me. “You’re the only dumb Yid I’ve ever met.” I told them I was proud to show them that it takes all kinds.
So. Bartok. I’m driving, he’s in the back seat between Nicky and Ray, and he can’t keep his mouth shut, he keeps on chattering like Mr. Happy and he has this strange way of saying things like that he was a guy who “travels the night city, the dark arsenal of bad dreams.”
I said, “You’re a real poet,” and he agreed. I knew he wasn’t gonna last too long.
In the back seat, Bartok shoves his voice down into a whisper so that he sounds like he’s got some hot, evil secret to get off his chest—that’s the way he tells us that he likes hookers except the thing is, they usually don’t take to him. I’m thinking that if this is gonna be his confession, then it’s his last one. “So you’re a guy that even hookers won’t go with,” I say to him. “Man, you ain’t gonna miss much in this world.”
“I can’t say,” Bartok says and it’s the only time he gets so agitated that Ray and Nicky hold him back on the seat. “I can tell.” And then he goes on about the hotel room and how he’s trying to be so cool and charming because, like he says, he’s got this thing for hookers. He likes scotch and hookers he says, and that’s about everything. That’s his entire life. That, and Red River.
I know, but I swear to God, that’s exactly what he said. With all I’d been through in the past day and a half, I almost laughed, and I woulda, except he had this huge-ass gun pointed at my face. I guess all guns look big when they’re pointed at you. Forget about it being the biggest cliché in the world, but I was sitting at the time. In his pickup truck. A beautiful red pickup truck. I tell ya, if ya ever commit a crime in the Midwest, make your getaway vehicle a red pickup truck. Soon as you hit the highway, you’ll blend in like a sore thumb in a podiatrist’s office. A sore toe is more like it, but I don’t know what they call hand doctors, so…whatever. You know what I mean.
Truth be told, I was surprised he said anything to me at all. If I was him, I’da shot my ass before I got into his truck. Make sure I didn’t get any blood on the seats. That’s if I was him. Me? I couldn’t shoot someone who wasn’t trying to shoot me. Or maybe trying to hurt a loved one, I guess, y’know? I especially couldn’t shoot someone who comes to a gunfight with a set of keys, which is all I had on me when I got in his truck. That, my driver’s license, and an expired credit card. I think back on it, if I did laugh, it woulda been more than likely my last laugh. My momma used to say, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”
She’da been wrong this time, though. He who laughed last mighta got his ass blown all the way to hell.
Anyway, that was my cook talking, the guy I got my meth from. I screwed up trying to go big league with him. I shoulda learned my lesson and stayed small time and just kept on going with the flow. Sitting next to my cook, in the back seat of the pickup, was that guy Robert who owned the ranch, and was gonna pay me, Elmore, and Mickey to drive those illegal cigarettes to Illinois.
You know things are going to shit when three guys ride out and only two ride back. Somebody wrote a song like that a buncha years ago. The Byrds? The Eagles, maybe?
So, there I am in the back of a pickup, sitting across from my cook and Robert, and I very slowly reach behind me and pull out the money I owed them. What I had left of it, anyway. Robert took it and did that thing like he was weighing it in his hands, letting me know that had the deal gone the way it was supposed to, he’d be holding a lot more money than I’d just given him, we’d be talking about the next deal, and I wouldn’t have a gun sticking in my face.
Nobody talked for a few minutes and I sure as shit wasn’t gonna be the first one to strike up a conversation. I could tell they were both deciding what to do with me and none of the things I came up with in my head were good. Next thing I know, they both take out their phones and start texting. That confused the shit out of me, but after a little while it dawned on me—the way Cook texted and then Robert’s phone would ding and then he’d text and Cook’s phone would ding—that they were texting each other. About me.
If there’s anything more boring, make that deadly boring, than a town council meeting I’ve yet to experience it. But when you’re a young reporter for a small newspaper in a small state—Connecticut—and you’re low man on the totem pole, you don’t have much choice in what you cover. Thank goodness, I only have to do it once a month or in the unlikely event an emergency meeting is called.
It’s not exactly what I had in mind when I broke into journalism after graduating from Yale a couple years ago. I can hardly budget my own meager salary much less understand the town’s budget, and the idea of sitting through lengthy, mostly pointless discussions about traffic violations, Christmas festivals, parades and holiday decorations, well, let’s just say I can think of at least a dozen better uses of my time.
The truth is, not much goes on up here, so you wind up praying for something big, like a multi-car pile-up, a domestic dispute, a burglary, or even a small fire. Nothing too serious, just anything to break the monotony.
But it’s my job to be here, and so I make sure I pay attention and take good notes, which I’ll have to decipher later, since my handwriting leaves much to be desired. My friends used to joke that with that scrawl I should have been a doctor. Not much chance of that, since I gag at the sight of blood.
The way I figure it, I’m just biding my time, paying my dues, impressing my boss with my work ethic in hopes he’ll see he’s wasting me on crap like this and gives me something more interesting. Something like the crime beat. Not that there’s all that much crime up here, but every so often there is a break-in or a domestic squabble, or some two-bit white-collar crime that can possibly make it below the fold on the front page.
I am a fish out of water, living and working in a small town like New Milford. I’m a city kid, born and raised in New York City. Yorkville, to be precise, which is on the upper east side of Manhattan. I literally grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, the tracks of the elevator train, also known as the subway or just plain el. The wrong side of the tracks in this case being east of Park Avenue. My family isn’t German, Czech or Hungarian, but that’s who mostly inhabit my neighborhood and that heritage is reflected in the local restaurants and bakeries, places like the Bremen House, Geiger’s, Schaller and Weber, and Kleiner Konditorei,
A small-town council meeting is a stretch for me, especially since the usual issues under discussion are so provincial and, for the most part, intrinsically uninteresting, at least to me.
Ross Klavan’s work spans film, television, radio, print, live performance and visual art. A novella, “Thump Gun Hitched,” was published in 2016 by Down and Out Books as part of “Triple Shot” along with Charles Salzberg and Tim O’Mara. His darkly comic novel Schmuck was published by Greenpoint Press in 2014. Klavan’s original screenplay for the film Tigerland was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and the film was released by New Regency starring Colin Farrell. He recently finished an adaption of John Bowers’ The Colony and has written scripts for Miramax, Intermedia, Walden Media, Paramount, A&E and TNT-TV among others. The “conversation about writing” he moderated with Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer was televised and published as Like Shaking Hands with God, and his short stories have appeared in magazines and been produced by the BBC. An earlier novel, Trax, was published under a pseudonym. His play How I Met My (Black) Wife (Again), co-written with Ray Iannicelli, has been produced in New York City, and he has performed his work in numerous theaters and clubs. He has acted and done voice work in TV and radio commercials and has lent his voice to feature films including: Casino, You Can Count on Me, Revolutionary Road, Awake and the Amazon web series Alpha House, written by Gary Trudeau. He has worked as a newspaper and radio journalist in New York City and London. He lives in New York City with his wife, the painter, Mary Jones.
TIM O’MARA is best known for his Raymond Donne mysteries about an ex-cop who now teaches in the same Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood he once policed: Sacrifice Fly (2012), Crooked Numbers (2013), Dead Red (2015), Nasty Cutter (2017), published by Minotaur Books (#1–#3) and Severn House (#4). He recently signed a deal for a fifth Raymond book, The Hook, which should be published in late 2019 by Severn House. His novellas Smoked and Jammed appear in 2016 and 2018 crime trilogies from Down & Out Books. O’Mara taught special education for 30 years in the public middle schools of New York City, where he still lives and teaches adult writers. In addition to writing The Hook and the stand-alone high-school-based crime drama So Close to Me, O’Mara is currently curating a short crime story anthology to benefit the non-profit American Rivers.
Charles Salzberg is a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer. He is the author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, and the sequels, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair and Swann’s Way Out. His novel, Devil in the Hole, was named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine. His latest novel is Second Story Man. He is co-author of Triple Shot, with Ross Klavan and Tim O’Mara (three crime novellas). He teaches writing in New York City and is on the board of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America.